Pionero Scholars Program
Recruiting teachers in general must become a focus for Colleges of Education – enrollment in teacher preparation programs is at its lowest point in 45 years. (1) Each year Metro Nashville begins the school year with over 100 empty classrooms as there is a mismatch between teachers graduating with degrees and the needs of the district. Beyond that, the diversity of our teaching population is an important topic nationwide – low-income students, first generation students, students of color, male students, and English Language Learners need role models in their schools who understand where they come from and the challenges they are overcoming.
In Metro Nashville Public Schools, only 20% of teachers in 2015-2016 were male. (2) In terms of racial & ethnic diversity nationwide, while the numbers have steadily improved, nationwide teachers of color only make up 17% of the workforce. Meanwhile, the population of students of color is growing even faster – minority students now account for more than half of all public school students. (2) Also, almost one in four (12 million) schoolchildren ages 5 to 17 speak a language other than English at home, according to an analysis of census figures. (3) In Nashville, we are home to a vibrant and rapidly growing immigrant and refugee population, with sizeable communities of Kurdish, Egyptian, Mexican, Central American, Somali, Sudanese, Burmese, Thai, Laotian, and other nationalities from around the world. There are over 24,000 English Language Learners in Metro Nashville Public Schools, and the most diverse high school in the state of Tennessee, Overton High School, boasts over 60 languages spoken. (4)
Research has demonstrated that as a teacher population in a school becomes more diverse, all students in the school show positive gains in test scores, attention, retention, and college persistence. (Pitts, 2007). We believe that local students who grew up in Nashville have a unique perspective on working in communities with so much religious, ethnic, nationality, income, and linguistic diversity. We believe that local students, regardless of their own background, will ready to hit the ground running as teachers, confident in the context and strengths of their community.